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The House of Krug is walled with an imposing amalgam of decorative stone and brick masonry that has arced around the corner of Rue Coquebert and Boulevard Lundy since the late 1800s. At its edge stands a dark cherry gate long latched but for friends and family, and the most zealous lovers of Krug's Grande Cuvee—those ardent few who would beg and barter for an invitation to experience the most private champagne cellar in Reims. While founder Joseph Krug crafted a champagne he once envisioned for the masses, the private residence his family developed over six subsequent generations became too boisterous, too cramped with children and casks, to formally host guests. When the rare visitor crossed the threshold, arriving with some bygone iteration of cuvee in tow, eager to uncork it on the grounds where it was blended, they would unwittingly enter an overgrown inner courtyard out of sorts.
"We would often do things at night, in the dark, so no one could see anything," recalls Krug chief executive Maggie Henriquez, who a decade ago was tasked with rooting the brand’s future in its past. Following a series of successes in the virtual world—developing a Krug ID that would allow customers to research online each bottle's unique history; also a music app that would pair champagne with aural stimulation, a psychosomatic exercise meant to reverberate flavor across the palate in new ways—she turned her focus to the physical two years ago, commissioning the French architect and interior designer Stephanie Ledoux to transform a three story maze of cramped conjoined apartments, dilapidated and vacant for nearly a half century, into a House of Krug ready to engage the 21st Century. "If you don't open yourself to the world, you are nothing —you are a museum," she says. In fact, the rooms more closely resembled a mausoleum.
The Krug heirs relinquished the property in 1977, upon the champagne house's sale to Remy Martin, and even after the brand was acquired by LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton at the turn of the century, the grounds remained untouched, while tatty interiors fell further into disrepair. Now, following two years of indelicate excavation, a cacophony of bulldozers and sledgehammers has been replaced by a symphony. Or a jazz ensemble. Or a rock concert.
Olivier Krug, who spent his childhood outdoors kicking footballs through the flower bed and climbing across eaves and indoors wreaking havoc on the formal dinners his father Henri hosted in the family dining room (then the only private space sanctioned to receive guests),, now finds himself at home in the house's ground floor grand salon, where as Krug's house director, he can welcome his own guests with a glass and a song. Bluetooth speakers are now wired across the property, to inform and challenge the way guests interact with the champagne. Through a Yamaha MusicCast system that he mans from his phone, he can swipe through orchestrations that define the rhythm of each sip. No longer must the heirs of Joseph Krug serve to communicate the history and future of the brand; they can simply pour, sit back, and press play. This is truest in the tasting room, a library lined with 400 multicolored, spotlighted, wine bottles, backed by a custom-built sonic shower which together form an audiovisual representation of the 250 base wines and 150 reserves utilized for every blend of grande cuvee.
The brand's commitment to music isn't limited to the house's walls, however. Later this year, Krug will introduce a philanthropic initiative. "This will be able to fund scientific research and social activities, bringing music where it's not now found, in schools and hospitals, and allow us to pursue artistic collaborations with musicians around the world," says Henriquez. And as such a sustained effort will require donations, it's this charitable arm that will open the gate and welcome guests to fundraising dinners in the house's renovated dining room, where every glass and china plate is emblazoned with a new signature Krug Maison de Familie monogram. The dining room is overseen by Arnaud Lallement, the chef and proprietor of l'Assiette Champenoise, a Michelin three-star restaurant in the nearby suburb of Tinqueux. "He's one of the best chefs in the world," says Krug. "And he sells now more Krug at his tiny restaurant than is sold in all of China. When he came to me years ago, he asked to sell Krug by the glass. He couldn't believe we'd provide it, without even his first Michelin star. But he understood what most chefs do not: That Krug is for everyone."
Champagne Krug is located at 5 Rue Coquebert, 51100 Reims, France. To contact the House, visit krug.com.